This past week, Alaska received a $10.48 million federal grant to support the state’s tourism, travel and outdoor recreation sectors.

 The grant funding will be going to the Alaska Travel Industry Association, according to a Nov. 8 announcement from the Alaska Department of Commerce and Economic Development.

The nonprofit ATIA plans to use the money to “establish marketing campaigns to draw tourists back to Alaska,” states the announcement.

“This investment in statewide tourism marketing efforts for next year is another important step toward recovery for our industry and many businesses throughout the state,” ATIA President & CEO Sarah Leonard said in the announcement.

The Alaska grant is part of $314 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds being distributed by the U.S. Department of Economic Development Administration across 34 states.

In addition to marketing, the Rescue Plan grants are to support “infrastructure, workforce, and other projects to rejuvenate safe leisure, business and international travel,” according to the announcement.

In other words, rebuilding the visitor industry sector in Alaska or elsewhere can require more than marketing.

Alaska, like most other visitor destinations worldwide, was walloped by the novel coronavirus pandemic in 2020.

That lost year was followed by the very mixed bag of 2021.

As the virus proved more resilient than hoped, the cruise industry and governments worked together (not always well) to navigate a return of ships large and small to the Alaska market this year — albeit in numbers far below pre-pandemic levels. The doors are open for a much larger volume of ships in 2022.

The volumes of independent visitor in 2021 indicated that demand for travel to and within Alaska continues to be strong, but it tested the available travel infrastructure and workforce that were limited by pandemic-related factors.

Looking ahead, November 2021 is different than November 2020.  Yes, the coronavirus is still us, but we now have more tools available  with which to respond — and more are on the near horizon.

The cruise industry now has developed and is successfully using protocols for operations.

We don’t know what the national/global economic picture will be once the 2022 season gets underway, but we do know that much of the consumer planning for Alaska trips occurs early in a given year.

As the picture of 2022 demand and circumstances become clearer, it could be prudent to spend some of that grant funding toward developing strategies to ensure that Alaska has the travel infrastructure and workforce in place to meet the demand — and enhance opportunites for visitors and visitor sector alike.